Here we are again in exam term, with everyone running around the library and shitting themselves about the impeding doom: AKA the exams. People try to out-do each other in how hard their revision is, how little they are able to socialize and how many million pages of notes and mock-tests they've done. Let's admit it, this is a pretty crap environment to be in this time of the year, which is why I always advocate running away from Cambridge for a quick daytrip, a weekend or even a longer bit of travel to unwind a little. Because contrary to popular opinion, exam period is pretty darn long and you won't be able to productively sit in a library 24/7 for two whole months. You'll just end up staring at the pages for hours without comprehending anything, then watch cat videos on youtube, while feeling miserable about yoruself... You might as well get off your butt and hop on a train to the coast for a day. Hell, taking a break for a few days might even increase your productivity!
Cambridge is not the best place to travel from. UK trains are bloody expensive and interesting destinations where you can go from Cambridge are rather limited. London and Ely get old rather quickly, and who the hell wants to go chill for a weekend in Peterborough? Luckily with a little creativity, students societies, travel grants and easy access to Stansted Airport, you can get to pretty good places. Now in my third (and final) year, I've been to a fair few places in the UK and outside of it during term time, so here are my recommendations for easy destinations.
The Hillwalking Club
I firmly believe that the best way to escape Cambridge and visit the coolest hilly destinations in the country is to join the Cambridge University Hillwalking Club. We travel all around the UK, to the Lake District, Peak District, North York Moors, Cheviots, Snowdonia and so on, in search of the best hills to climb. The trips are really affordable and short enough to be able to fit into your schedule once or twice a term. If a whole weekend is too long, there are also day trips and a ton of social events, along with a great community. I've already written quite a bit about the Hillwalking Club here, so I won't go on about it any longer. Just look at the pictures!
You are not really a person for the hills? Well, Cambridge is not that far away from the seaside either, even if it's not exactly the easiest to get there. There is a train to King's Lynn for a few quid, and while the place itself may not be very interesting, it is a great jumping board for travelling onwards to the coast with a local bus. Hunstanton is about an hour busride away, with a lovely seaside, large cliffs and plenty of walking to do. The town itself may not be a very big deal, but walking along the shore, you'll be greeted by cute huts, the lovely old village bit of Hunstanton and plenty of open beach and sand dunes to explore.
Hunstanton is an easy day trip from Cambridge, accessible by public transport, but if you want to venture a bit further and have access to a car, the rest of the Norfolk coastline also has plenty of places to explore! The salt marsh around Blakeney and Stiffkey is really quite surreal and if you feel adventurous, you can walk the whole Norfolk Coast Path.
I have been to Croatia more times than I can count and Dalmatia, especially the islands, is one of my favorite places in the world. This year, I returned once more for a short getaway with Aisling to the island of Hvar to explore the hills and the beaches far outside civilization. We stayed in a crazy-cool nomadic camping place called Cast Away, with no electricity, wifi or even a proper road close by. The nearest restaurant is 4 kilometers away, there is no open shop within 10 km and the only thing you can buy is wine from the locals. Not a bad problem to have!
Everyone goes to Croatia for its amazing beaches, but there is so much more to the country. This time, we opted to explore nature and were surprised how good the hills are on this little island! The views were stunning, just like the weather, food and of course the beaches! This place and the trip really deserves its own blogpost, so I'll write that soon! Flights to Split with Easyjet cost far less than visiting a friend in Durham and I am quite sure that Croatia is more exciting than sitting in the rain!
Milan & Bergamo
The first trip Aisling and I did together was to Italy. She lives in Hungary, while I live in England so we had to find a place to meet halfway. Flights to Milan were dirt cheap, costing £36 return! There was a little twist to it though: cheap flights to "Milan" are actually to Bergamo, which is about 50 kilometers outside Milan. Luckily, I checked out what the place looks like and it is a beautiful little town, so we chose to visit both Milan and Bergamo.
Milan is a cool city and you can do all the usual touristy things, have good food and it is really fun, but both of us loved Bergamo way more. The whole old town looks like an Assassins Creed movie set, with beautiful houses, churches and narrow streets crisscrossing the old castle, which overlooks the rest of the city. It is a lovely place to spend 2-3 days in, just chilling, walking around and eating good food. See more pictures and stories from this trip (including why eating hamburgers in Italy is a good idea) in this blogpost.
I feel like now I've showed off enough with all the travelling I did while you all were sitting in the library... But I hope that these pictures and stories have inspired you to go get outside Cambridge a bit. Even if you are genuinely scared of failing, just take an afternoon walk to Grantchester and enjoy a tea in The Orchard, or a little bike ride to Wandlebury. And if you are feeling more adventurous? Come climb some hills with us with the Hillwalking Club or start searching for the cheapest Ryanair tickets...